The Politics of Psi
Bad Spirituality

Atheists and Neuroscience

A member of a Facebook forum pointed out this extended essay by Adam Lee, an atheist, and asked whether anyone had a response. I've been thinking about these things of late, so I thought I'd have a shot.

Lee takes aim at the idea of the soul, arguing that recent discoveries in neuroscience make it untenable. Growing evidence of the way the brain functions, as revealed by brain scans, demonstrates how closely it is implicated in the production of identity, personality and behaviour, he points out. He gives an overview of which bits of the brain do what. And where in all of this is the soul, he wants to know. 'Which brain lobe does it inhabit? Where is it hiding in this tangle of neurons and synapses?'

Lee explains:

As a practical matter, it should be easy to judge between dualism and materialism, because unlike most religious doctrines, the notion of the soul is an idea that would seem to have testable consequences. Specifically, if the human mind is the product of a "ghost in the machine" and not the result of electrochemical interactions among neurons, then the mind should not be dependent on the configuration of the brain that houses it. In short, there should be aspects of the mind that owe nothing to the physical functioning of the brain.

So where is the soul hiding? Area after area of the brain has yielded up its secrets to the probing of neuroscience, and not a trace of it has been found. The more our knowledge advances, the less reason we have to suppose that it exists, and the less sustainable the dualist position becomes. All the evidence we currently possess suggests that there is nothing inside our skulls that does not obey the ordinary laws of physics.

To add substance to this Lee goes on to describe in some detail the effects of different types of brain injuries. For instance there are patients with memory disorders who cannot remember, or cannot make new memories. He asks: 'According to dualist beliefs, what has happened to these people? Where are their souls?'

Furthermore, with their memory shot, they no longer have the option of converting to Christianity. Any proselytizer who tries to convert them has, at most, a few minutes, before they forget everything he's said. 'Will God condemn them for this? Assuming these people were not religious, are they now doomed to Hell because their souls are trapped in an endless loop of brain chemistry?'

This is before we consider more exotic cases of the type described by Oliver Sacks and Antonio Damasio, such as alien hand syndrome (where a hand seems to develop a mind of its own, viz. Dr Strangelove); paralysis and denial (the patient believes he can move his paralysed arm, and resists all arguments to the contrary); Capgras' syndrome (the patient thinks a person she knows well is actually an imposter); and of course Phineas Gage, who survived but underwent a severe personality change after a steel rod passed through the front of his skull.

The article is quite long, but you get the idea. The essential point is that all this data poses an insuperable challenge for dualism and for the existence of an immortal soul. And the more of it that accumulates, the tougher the challenge gets.

It struck me straight away that Lee is attacking an idea of the soul that no serious person could believe: the Cartesian substance that sits inside our heads and somehow meshes with the machinery. To ask where the soul is hiding is quaintly naïve, as if the thing could potentially be tracked down and ferreted out of its burrow. It's hard to think that he's completely serious about it, and yet one worries that actually he is. This is exactly how the scientific-sceptical mind thinks. It's akin to the observation that cosmologists have combed through the entire universe and found no trace of God - as if he might be hiding in a gas cloud somewhere.

Another approach would be to identify what contemporary dualists actually do think and then tackle that. Most these days tend to hypothesise some kind of quantum interaction at a deep interior level of the brain, as did Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff. One variation of this would be the filter theory first outlined (in different ways) by Frederic Myers and William James, and recently given a dusting off by Edward Kelly in Irreducible Mind.

Like many people, I first encountered this in Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception, where the brain is seen as a 'reducing valve', shutting out the greater part of the reality out there - Mind at Large, as Huxley called it. Having had similar mescaline experiences to Huxley's I found it immediately appealing: it's when brain functions are compromised, as for instance after ingesting hallucinogens, that consciousness changes radically, giving a glimpse of the greater reality Out There, magnificent and terrifying. Agreed, this stands more as an initial metaphor than as a fully worked out theory. Kelly has made a good effort, fleshing it out with the ideas of quantum physicist Henry Stapp, but it's still a long way from being taken seriously by the consciousness studies community.

So the model would not be difficult to challenge, for instance on the grounds that warm wet brains are hostile environments for quantum interactions. But unless you can demonstrate that it's terminally incoherent, or provide evidence that in some way falsifies it, you can't maintain that neuroscience has disproved the concept of the soul.

Another feature that interests me is Lee's emphasis on the accumulation of contrary evidence. Each new experiment that demonstrates a link between a brain state and a mental state - and the literature is by now extremely rich - is another nail in the coffin of dualism.

But was this ever really necessary? It doesn't need brain scans to observe, for instance, that the personality becomes progressively degraded with the progress of senile dementia, and this has long been viewed as a problem for any claim of survival of consciousness after death. New items of evidence don't need to be piled one on top of each other, as Lee does here, in order to make the point: it surely has to be ceded at once. Nothing bypasses the brain. Identity, personality and behaviour are all absolutely implicated in what it does. If the brain is damaged, one or more of these will be compromised.

It does not follow, however, that physical brain functions are the ultimate source of these things. No matter how successfully we correlate brain states with mental states, that's all we have - increasingly detailed and suggestive correlations. To argue that a correlation demonstrates fundamental cause is absolutely unwarranted. We remain free to hypothesise, say, the existence of the soul as an information field that exists in an unseen dimension, and which expresses itself through the brain and nervous system through some kind of quantum interaction.

If the brain is the medium by which this information field is expressed in the physical world, then, in the event of injury, one would expect its expression to fail in striking and various ways. Furthermore, if this field continues to exist after the death of the body we could hypothesise that it finds another way to express itself, in some other form, in some other dimension. In which case the individual is restored to health - as indeed is frequently described by spirit communicators through mediums, as their experience.

All this may seem to the sceptic to be speculative and unwarranted. But something of the sort is required to account for the observed facts of psi. A brain that can express telepathic intuitions, presentiment, precognitive dreams, and suchlike is not to be conceived in purely mechanical, physicalist terms.

So we end up some distance from where Lee set out. The real target is not the Cartesian concept of the soul, which hardly anyone takes seriously, but those phenomena that would require some alternative, more viable dualist framework to make sense of. That would have been the basis of a quite different argument, of the kind that Richard Wiseman et al produce, questioning psi's existence.

To be clear, I believe that the evidence from neuroscience, of the kind that is currently being produced, cannot be an argument against survival of consciousness after death. Still, I guess that it will continue to be a powerful element in atheists' thinking. They seem mesmerised by it, to the extent of letting themselves be seduced by an illusion.


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Whenever I read a neurologist insisting that the brain is the only thing consciousness can run on, I remember the rare but scientifically validated cases of people with severe hydrocephalic issues who are still nonetheless capable of thought.

(Sorry to link to my own blog, but it's quickest source for the data I have:

If a man can run ConsciousnessOS (as it were) in a head containing little more than cerebro-spinal fluid and a couple of strands of nerve tissue, the entire basis of neurology should be, according to the declared rules of validation, thrown away & rebuilt from scratch. Yet, this is rarely mentioned by the reductionists, for some reason... probably because it so strongly implies mind is not an epiphenomenon of brain.

Personally, I think neo-Aristotelian hylemorphic dualism makes the most sense.

It's not a soul-of-the-gaps position, and it's compatible with both a fully-physical understanding of how the brain works and with the survival of consciousness after death. Basically, it's the position that the soul is a Form (or, as Rupert Sheldrake calls them, morphogenetic fields), and thus its actions on the body are formal causes, not efficient causes.

Roderick T. Long (a non-dualist hylemorphist) has a good essay on free will ("Free Will and Future Contigents") in which he points out that our wills don't have to be ghostly forces playing billiards with our synapses, they just have to be able to cause one possible future neural state to obtain instead of another.

That last bit was a little unclear. Long's point is that since there is no way-thing-would-have-been thanks to indeterminacy, only a range of probabilities, all the will/soul has to do is cause one of those options to come true. So no extra physical forces are exerted. So there's no obstacle to a fully-physical understanding of the brain, just to a fully-physical understanding of the mind.

Nice post, Robert.

I work backwards on this one. The evidence for psi and survival of death is so strong that it's now up to scientists to figure out how the body relates to that which survives. It does no good for the skeptics to argue that something is impossible if it has already been proven to be real.

I have my own idea about the relationship of body and "soul." Namely, that the soul is equivalent to the information content or "fact of the matter" of the whole human person. Somewhat similar to the Platonic idea of "form." I theorize that information is never destroyed, and thus we live on as information. I think this neatly solves the mind-body problem. BTW, I also partly agree with the transmission theory. I think memories and perhaps other personal information and attributes are stored in the Akashic records (which is just a fancy way of saying that information is never destroyed; no medium is required) and the brain "downloads" the info as needed. Thus, what is "coded" into the brain is not memory itself but the location of it.

Well, there you go, I just echoed what Badocelot wrote, and I had not read his comment yet.

Cat, thanx for the link to that article in your blog. It's good to see recent case studies.
I first encountered the documentation of people having a fully functional mind, despite suffering from hydrocephalus in A Secret History of Consciousness by Gary Lachman (of Daily Grail fame). Early on, Lachman discusses cases of consciousness involving not just water on the brain, but water instead of a brain.

Quoting heavily from David Darling's 1995 book After Life: In Search of Cosmic Consciousness, he brings up the work of Professor John Lorber, who died in 1996. One of Professor Lorber's most prominent cases involved a man with an IQ of 126, a graduate of the University of Sheffield with a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and by all accounts bright and perfectly ordinary.
But there was a problem - the man's brain was functionally non-existent, yet his only outward abnormality was a slightly larger than normal head, which was what he was being examined for to begin with. Ultimately, he poor guy did end up with a problem - once he was informed of his absence of brain tissue, it kinda disturbed him. Some folks just want to be "normal".
And this is just one case among many.

Lorber caught all kinds of hell for his studies, and sceptics report that he later "apologized" for his data. This is not true. Under fire for the accuracy of his study, his correctly quoted words were "I can't say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it is clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms."
Today, greatly improved standards of ante natal care mean that there are far fewer such cases for study, but this is still a very real phenomenon.

When I see this, and other issues being swept under the carpet by mainstream medical research, I can't help but believe that there is a entrenched, tacit conspiracy of denial in the outdated reductionist / materialist world of science we live in.

Amen, RabbitDawg!

Atheists did not always resort to writing entire essays to attack a straw man. It's with the advent of the Internet that, lacking a friendly neighbor or priest to have a dialogue with, they have begun writing rebuttals to nobody in particular.

Good article, Robert.

You are right, when Lee said that neurologists do not find the soul in the brain, presupposes that the soul would be the kind of things visible under microscocpe. Straw man fallacy, no dualistic defends the existence of the soul as well understood.

Then we have cases of neurological diseases, which, as you write, remain compatible with the transmission hypothesis, which is compatible with the afterlife, because if the transimision hypothesis is true, then not only the mind affects the brain , but also the brain affects the mind, but mind-brain dependence is purely functional, not existential, which is compatible with all neurological observations. The key is that Lee's article does not mention at all parapsychological evidence, a type of evidence is crucial to reject the production hypothesis in favor of the transmission hypothesis.

And finally, it is false that there is no evidence for the existence of the soul, that is, evidence of the existence of a vehicle of consciousness that persists after the death of the organic body. For example, Durville experiments on exteriorization of sensibility and motility, and Osis experiments with psychic Tanous on astral projection. Do these studies do not count? Psychic research suggests the existence of the soul as a vehicle of consciousness that persists after biological death, but how ironic this vehicle is material, only a matter unknown to scientists today.

Good article, Robert. I've previously noticed -- in both my previous professional life and in some the comments to previous blogs -- that critics tend to argue in very simplistic Materialist OR Cartesian dualist ways [& materialism is to be 'objectively preferred' whereas dualism is a mere 'belief'].

Like Badocelot, I have a great deal of sympathy for Neo-Aristotelean hylomorphism, which can be seen as a sort of half-way house between radical dualism and materialism; Bennett & Hacker argue for this in 'Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience.'

I'd add that one can be an anti-materialist AND a non-believer in survival. e.g. the question of whether consciousness can be reduced to material or physical processes is distinct from questions of astral bodies, and distinct again from questions of survival.

Finally, the advocates of materialism need to be more honest about the limitations of their position. Specificity of brain function is not the only issue; the reducibility or otherwise of qualia to brain function, which is FIERCELY debated in consciousness studies, is problematic for materialist philosophies, as is mental causation: see for instance the works of Jaegwon Kim. But I get the impression that a hard line often gets argued so that any notions deemed religious e.g. the 'soul' can be swiftly dispatched.

I admire both your patience and your writing skills, our Robert, really I do! But don't you ever wonder if by engaging with such perverse intellects you might one day become as daft as them? 88}

That aside, I'd much rather hear about your experiences with mescaline. I've always wondered what, if any, lasting changes to one's perception are brought about by the halucinogens. Do please tell. 8)

BTW, RabbitDawg, speaking of issues swept under the carpet by mainstream medical research: I remember reading about the early days of hypnosis (a phenomenon that, while accepted as genuine these days, remains largely unexplained by science) a patent had his leg amputeted using hypnosis as the only form of anaesthesia.

The operation was witnessed by members of the British Medical Association who, after some consideration, decided that the patient merely pretended not to feel any pain. 8)

Matt Colborn, it is true that the problem is much more complicated than the Cartesian dualism vs. materialism dichotomy. It is also true that one can be anti-materialistic and not believing in the afterlife, but it's true that one can be materialistic and believe in the afterlife, because the soul can be a material vehicle of consciousness that remains after biological death, but would be a Pyrrhic victory for materialism, because one of the motivations of materialism is that there can be no consciousness without substrates of ordinary matter.

Moreover, problems such as the irreducibility of consciousness, qualia, intentionality and mental causation are very different from the issues of psi phenomena and the afterlife. But what bothers me is that philosophers of mind are focused on issues as abstruse as if consciousness supervenes on the physical, if causally efficacious, and so on., untreated at no time parapsychological research. That's because most philosophers of mind, are materialistic, dualistic or whatever, have one thing in common: they assume that there can be no consciousness without brains, but this assumption is probably false in the light of parapsychological research.

Cheers for the comment & further data, RabbitDawg. (Incidentally, as you mentioned Daily Grail in ref. to Lachman, I'm a contributing editor there... though not had the pleasure of direct communication with Gary.)

When I was kid I enjoyed dismembering old vacuum tube radios to see what would happen. I never found a voice inside but I could cerainly cause distortion and havoc.

The brain could be like one of those old radios and you will never find the voice (soul) inside but you will be able to find and define functional areas - just like the old radio.

Well, perhaps those who find no evidence for "soul", are not aware of having "soul" and, therefore, do not "believe" in the existence of "soul", are individuals who, in all actuality, have no "souls". Who's to argue with them?

That we have so many soul-less animations running around claiming to be authentic entities is cause for pause... but, perhaps, not so remarkable. I don't know of any law which dictates that for every creature spawned one will find a corresponding psyche.

Robert it's like that old one which used to be regularly rolled out about the Surgeon General (or in other versions the British equivalent) supposedly pronouncing how he'd performed thousands of autopsies and never once come across anything resembling a soul.

Setting aside the issue did he know (indeed does anyone) what a 'soul' looks like - if he didn't have the means then he also wouldn't've come across anything resembling infrared/ultraviolet or indeed subatomic particles either.

If he thought 'God' resembled a little old man on a fluffy cloud he'd've probably struck out there too.

Similarly I suggest Adam Lee's making the mistake of confusing the artist for the paintbrush - if the paintbrush's destroyed that doesn't mean the artist's dead.

If during an internet debate with him my connection explodes that doesn't mean I cease to exist - I can 'reincarnate' back online via another connection.

Ditto if all he can heard down his end of the phone's hideous hissing and crackles that doesn't mean I'm 'senile' or 'brain damaged': I may still be at my end more insightful and coherent than ever - it's simply he's unable to understand me.

Strangely enough, I too have often seen the Internet as a model of psychic interaction.

"As a practical matter, it should be easy to judge between dualism and materialism, because unlike most religious doctrines, the notion of the soul is an idea that would seem to have testable consequences. Specifically, if the human mind is the product of a "ghost in the machine" and not the result of electrochemical interactions among neurons, then the mind should not be dependent on the configuration of the brain that houses it. In short, there should be aspects of the mind that owe nothing to the physical functioning of the brain."

This right. It is easy to distinguish between dualism and materialism. The problem is that the atheist is ignoring the evidence in support of dualism.

Evidence for the afterlife including near death experiences show there are aspects of the mind that owe nothing to the physical functioning of the brain.

The hypothesis that the brain is a filter of non physical consciousness explains all the evidence from neuroscience plus all the evidence from parapsychology and psychical research which neuroscience cannot explain - therefore the filter model of consciousness is a superior.

The filter model of the brain:

"In the filter model, consciousness is a nonphysical phenomena and the brain filters consciousness while we are incarnated in our physical bodies. The brain could filter some aspects of consciousness the way a colored glass can filter out some wavelengths of light. What passes through the brain filter is a restricted set of conscious faculties that we have while in the physical body.

The filter model is superior to the hypothesis that the brain produces consciousness because the filter model explains more evidence. You can damage a filter in two ways. You can clog it or you can punch a hole in it. When brain damage causes loss of function like amnesia, that is like a clog in the filter. When brain injury results in increased function, that is like a hole punched in the filter. An example of increased function is when people have increased psychic abilities after a brain injury.

In the filter model one of the functions of the brain is to restrict consciousness. In that case, if you release the conscious mind from the brain as happens during a near death experience you should have expanded, unfiltered, consciousness. This is exactly what happens during a near death experience. People who have NDE's are able to perceive more than they do when in the body. They report seeing in 360 degrees and seeing colors that they do not see when in the body. Blind people report seeing during NDE's. Some near death experiencers report being able to communicate telepathically with other beings. Some report understanding that time is just an illusion or that they seem to have access to all the knowledge in the universe."

Evidence for the afterlife (links to supporting information are included at the site):

"This evidence comes from mediumship (Mrs. Piper, proxy sittings, drop in communicators, and cross correspondences), shared near death experiences and veridical NDEs, shared death bed visions, multiple witness apparitions, children with past life memories, quantum mechanics and more."

What interesting comments! At this point I could think of other ideas to share with anyone reading.

In the Lee's text he believes that qualia are physical because they can have physical causes, such as when you prick a finger, physical event, and causes you pain, qualia. But this argument we can also conclude the opposite, that a hand movement is a mental event because it has a mental cause, the will of someone. Of course, materialists deny that the will is genuine cause of the movement, because consider that the cause of motion are certain physiological processes in the body. But here's a mistake, as from a naturalistic perspective in the third person the cause of motion are certain physiological processes, from the mentalist perspective in the first person the cause is the will of the individual. The materialists will say then that the mentalist perspective is an illusion and is entirely wrong, but this is impossible, because this perspective is what we have developed to interact with each other and during this time has been well enough to understand each with other. Mentalist perspective and naturalistic perspective must be complemented as different but equally necessary conceptions about the world.

On another topic, we have the question of free will. In Lee's monograph considers that free will is logically impossible, because an action is free if it is not by chance or determinism, but an action or has caused or uncaused. If the action has a cause, then determinism, and whether the action has no cause, then random. Hence the logical impossibility of free will. But this argument assumes that there is no third option between having cause and without cause, which is wrong, because according to Bergson, the third possibility is to cause yourself. In the physical sphere we see that A causes B being A and B different, but in the psychological sphere see something else: the self cause his actions, but actions are not something different from self, but constitute the self, so that effects are the cause. But not always happens, but we act freely only when our actions express our self, when part of our self, not when they are outside our self.

It strikes me that materialism is self-refuting. Materialism is an idea - it cannot be reduced to a particular arrangement of matter. Yet it is an idea that denies that there is anything more than matter, hence that ideas don't exist. Therefore it denies the existence of itself. Hence it can be dismissed as really rather dumb.

Anyone who can say that a thought is a state of the brain and no more must be extraordinarily lacking in insight. How can matter be 'about' something? Matter just is what it is. Such a person either must deny that a thought has content (neatly refuting his own arguments) or he has to admit that matter is not just matter but has an 'interior' aspect. If so, then materialism is no simple solution but a 'weird' philosophy that thinks everything is conscious. That might well be true, but I doubt the average materialist believes that.

The more one considers what consciousness is, and what the sense of being a self is, the harder it becomes to comprehend. To say consciousness simply 'is' matter is just incoherent.

I suspect that that, properly considered, consciousness alone is all the evidence needed to demonstrate that this is a meaningful transcendent reality.

".... materialism is no simple solution but a 'weird' philosophy that thinks everything is conscious. That might well be true, but I doubt the average materialist believes that."

Oddly enough,that's *exactly* what Rupert Sheldrake believes - and he's certainly no materialist. Neither is he weird . . . . at least not in my view.

The atheist is doing something akin to cracking open a radio to look for Led Zeppelin inside. What he finds instead are circuits and wires designed to receive an immaterial and invisible signal. Yet, the atheist obstinately argues that this proves Led Zeppelin does not exist.

Piers, I do not think your anti-materialist argument is valid, because if I understand contemporary materialism, which asserts that there is not ideas but all ideas exist as entities in a physical support such as a brain, a piece of paper, a disk, etc. The materialism that denies the existence of separate ideas of any material support, as denying the existence of separate minds of any material support. The problem is that this last statement does not exclude the possibility of the afterlife, because after death, our mind can be a material vehicle other than organic body to continue making some of its functions, which makes the afterlife compatible with materialism. The materialists will say however that there is no evidence that material vehicle exist, but this is simply false by the evidence recorded by the parapsychological research.

On the other hand, the argument about the intentionality seems to work, because materialists have only two options: either to consider intentionality as an illusion, and then sinking all thought including speeches about materialism, or consider that the intetionality is an inherent property of certain materials structures such as nervous system, but then that is no longer matter. I think the solution is to become aware that we are moving in two very different conceptions of the world but also necessary to understand the reality: the naturalistic conception, resulting from the study of nature and where there is not intentionality, and the mentalist conception, the result of the interaction between humans and where there is intentionality.

Thanks for the read, Robert. This is a good subject for thought and I do appreciate the time you’ve put into creating this. Per Lee, I should instead thank your neurons for this purely mechanical process! :) Yes, the use of the words “hiding” and “no evidence” is rather telling.

I haven’t heard the mind-brain relationship referred to as “the filter model” often in my circles, but I think that’s a fair way of viewing it. The physical brain is more of an interface, capable of sending and receiving data, but it has its own collection of “instincts” that govern physical functions. It’s primarily purpose is certainly not a storage unit as many suggest, rather our neurons are “fired” using our corresponding spirit (ethereal) counterpart. It’s a part of our physical body that serves our ability to interact with this environment. Essentially, with regard to the brain or anything physical for that matter, it has never been responsible for life, only the expression of it.

Interestingly, spirit bodies, that are apparently more “real” than the one we have now, are a finer substance (higher frequency of vibration, perhaps less dense) and there is also a brain in a spirit body that I assume would (normally) cause most of the activity that our neurons display.

Regarding mental aberration, I explain: just because the car is damaged, don’t assume the driver is too. If our physical brain is damaged, we seem to lose both the upstream and downstream functions that those cells facilitated, thus the loss of expression. Speaking of downstream, the co-mingling or interruption of that data is apparently how mediumistic communication (or possession) occurs.

As I understand it, and have found in many different sources in related literature on the subject, from a spirit’s perspective, the reality of the soul’s existence isn’t necessarily clear there either. There are spirits who still reject the idea of a soul and a creator as much as they did here. For that matter, I’ve read of no one that has actually claimed to have cast their eyes upon one; rather, it or its energies are perceived using other senses, something like we perceive the air around us in this physical existence.

Through mediums, we’re told that the soul is our moral decision center. Basically, it’s our direct connection to our creator and the only true “image” that Christian theology refers to. The intellectual mind is an instrument of the soul as is our spirit-self. The appearance and quality of our spirit body is a product of our soul’s condition. It determines our suitable home beyond the sloughing of our physical shell (death) and thankfully for most of us, it can also be improved.

From what I’ve gathered, there is only one universe, but many layers. To understand the spatial relationship of all these pieces, specifically what “physical” objects can be seen or penetrated within the same area, imagine that within a defined space is an object. Provided the frequency of vibration of the object is similar to its surroundings and the density is sufficient, it will collide or be seen. If the frequencies are markedly different, it will not. Like locking in on a vibration using a radio or television tuner, your relative frequency determines your experience. It’s a simplistic explanation, but if you imagine a virtually unlimited range of frequencies, and given the immediately visible universe, you can begin to grasp the implications.

I’m not usually interested in the study of NDE, but I discovered Melvin Morse a few weeks ago (, who has apparently been studying neuroscience with regard to NDE. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of his conclusions or assumptions, he seems qualified and certainly holds an opposing view to the idea that the brain is responsible for all thought.

Well, that’s much more than I had intended to share, but perhaps it will help someone in their search. I hope you’re all having a great day, wherever you are!

McLuhan reveals the core of the failure of materialism to disprove the absence of the soul in the statements:

"Nothing bypasses the brain. Identity, personality and behaviour are all absolutely implicated in what it does. If the brain is damaged, one or more of these will be compromised.
It does not follow, however, that physical brain functions are the ultimate source of these things. No matter how successfully we correlate brain states with mental states, that's all we have - increasingly detailed and suggestive correlations. To argue that a correlation demonstrates fundamental cause is absolutely unwarranted."

Quite correct. However, he does bypass the fact that many believers in dualism have very definite ideas about the nature of the soul. These beliefs are explicitly and implicitly expressed in the many books dealing with near-death experiences. Not surprisingly, these same beliefs are echoed in the holy texts of many religions. But as yet no-one has successfully applied these definitions to definitively disprove or prove the reality of a soul or of some sort of controlling extracorporeal conscious mind.

The problem with the strawman version of dualism that atheists so doggedly argue against is that it's not so very close to what people used to believe. The soul/spirit was of like-kind to the wind, which was believed to be the motive 'force' behind all the motions of the world. Soul=motion, and the wind was the obvious 'proof' of the truth of that very old belief.

When Thales observed the actions of magnets on iron, declaring 'everything to be full of gods', he apparently meant the gods/good souls are first principles/causes of orderly motions, best seen in the orderly motions of the heavenly bodies. At least that's how Plato, Aristotle and many others quote him.

Thus 'Dualism' came from the observation of invisible causes of motion in the world. Current materialism locates gods/souls/force inside the particles of matter themselves... or it did until quantum mechanics caused everyone to wonder if particles were fundamental at all. Many quantum physicists argue that even the idea of "particles" leads to nonsense and that everything is more fundamentally 'fields'... which are even more akin to the soul/spirit/gods of the ancients, far removed from hard Newtonian billiard balls, Eupicurean Atoms with hooks and similar out-moded matter models.

Thus is it at all a theoretical stretch to imagine that minds/souls/spirits are what we call in modern terms quantum wave-functions or fields? "Materialism" is flawed because the model of matter most village atheists seem to hold to has long been superseded.

What then this 'Dualism' they argue against? The Cartesian idea of a separate 'mind-stuff' which moved the body via 'animal spirits' was due to an overly simplistic 17th Century mechanistic philosophy, which sought to distance itself from the more Holistic Neo-Platonism which many scientists espoused in DesCartes day. The Mechanists, for example, tried to explain magnetism as caused by motions of minute screws, and believed that everything was filled with subtle fluids in mechanical contact - a world philosophy built on hydraulic engineering. Hydraulic machinery was the 17th Century's apogee of technology, so it's no surprise that it was also the model used by the Mechanists when imagining the body and the Mind.

These days Mechanism has been replaced with the "Hard AI hypothesis" that soul/mind is software and brains are merely wetware computers. Other brands of Mechanism are out there, as equally sceptical of Hard AI Mechanism and Strawman Dualism, but equally wedded to the dogma of "living brain = Mind", and nothing else.

I would argue that we need something more like the Ancient view that the whole of the world is mind-like and animated, and that the human mind reflects the macro-world in its micro-form. Thus why we perceive a certain mindedness about the World. But

I find it hard to believe that the complete works of Shakespeare came from a neuron.

The problem of consciousness will never be solved. There isn't even a way to properly formulate a question to address the problem. How can a brain cell can't... so if you join together 10,000000 how does that suddenly become a conscious entity that wonders where it came from...falls in and out of love.... gets depressed and jealous etc....Neurologists would have us believe that neuro-imaging of blood flow in the brain somehow begins to explain it or give us some clues.
Blood flowing through an artery or a vessel with a bit of electrical activity. You would have thought that other organs such as the heart would be conscious on that basis.

And Why does Mr Lee simply ignore all the evidence that falsifies his belief system ?
People that have NDE's are quite certain that what they experienced was real. You see your own body from a vantage point, that's the evidence, what could be better than that ?

I seem to recall that there is, in fact, evidence that the heart is conscious. Unfortunately, the reference slips my mind. Perhaps someone else here can help? 8)

Julie, here you can see the studies on whether the heart is conscious:

Psychic abilities are impossible given the nature of hylemorphic dualism. If hylemorphic dualism is taken seriously, remote perception, telepathy, psychokinesis, and even ghostly phenomenon are impossible, given the nature of the soul as the Form of the body rather than something potentially independant of the body. Here is a philosophical argument against telepathy on the grounds of violating hylemorphic dualism:

I, of course, do not subscribe to hylemorphic dualism. Just so you know.

Richard, I would like to mention that a common mistake among philosophers is to accept a metaphysical position, as the hylemorphic dualism, and then transferring to nature to say that phenomena are possible and that phenomena are impossible. No, the correct posture is exactly backwards, ie from the nature and infer that metaphysical position is more likely given the evidence of empirical research.

And considering the evidence I think psychic hylemorphic dualism is false, but in fact I no longer worry about whether some version of dualism or materialism is true or not, but what matters is knowing what exist in the world, if there is extrasensorial perception, if the astral body as a vehicle of consciousness after death, etc., something that only empirical research can achieve.

Pardon me if I recommend a site and scientist author that may actually have been discussed on this site. But I thought I would recommend Barnardo Kastrup, an exciting young scientist who has written 3 highly readable books and a number of You Tube shorts, as well as fascinating computer simulations of metaphysical realities evolving in simulated time frames of 'competeting collective human idea systems and sacred geometries".

He uses an interdisciplinary approach and is a must needed breathe of fresh air and hope representing a 'new generation of thinkers' that is fundamental to Thomas Kuhn's philosophic terminology of "Paradigm Shifts in Science" and the scientific revolutions that result.

We are on the the default side of modern technological rational "man the measurer"that was the 18th century Newtonian Enlightenment that is great for producing "things and technologies" but is a toolthat is blind to the Soul of Man, Meaning and Belonging to the Universe as Emergent Sentience in the the Collective Human Experience. Jung actually was collaborating, as a psychologist, shaman of sorts and revolutionary cosmologist with Wlfgang Pauli, a renowned quantuum physicist and pointing toward a collapse or conscilience fusing Subjective Experience with science and cosmology and a new paradigm has been on hold since his death in 1962. emerge.

Bernardo Kastrup is formally trained a PhD in Computer Science but the books stacked behind him in the interview.
While I was in graduate school at Penn State Univewrsity in the mid 1970's I was considered "onothodox" when I chose the sybject "a N=1 approach when empirically studying the human subjective experience" and was about 30 years a head of my Skinner Smitten Behavioral Psychol;ogy that most graduate programs trained psychologists for the next 50 years, as my graduate advisor would proudly puff. I was considered a bit addled in my insistance on other methods or ways to explore the qualia of the "Hard Problem" of how Conciousness is linked with "stuff and electrical firing neuronal synapses produced Sentient Self Awareness. Other than the Neo-Freudian models or the newer Albert Ellis "cognitive Approach" opened Skinner's Black Box.
Ironically, the late psycholgist, mystic and writer, was studying his patients at a long term psychiatric hospiotal in California and "listening without pre-judgement" to the variety and way hospitalized schizophrenic patients were experiencing what the current "medical Psychiatric Paradigm" name as delusions and hallucinations and obtaning interesting results that were unpublishable in reputable academic journals at the time (the late 1960's and 70's). He was courageous. He was a true empricist, a mystic at heart, and his work , for an 'odd duck' graduate student he was an oasis of authentic Radical Empirical practice that William James had written in the early period of American Psychology as it differentiated as a separated discipline from Philosophy, discredited Metaphysics and became "more scientific" falling to the sway of "we are a science just like physics, look at our algorithims and inter-rater reliability that Watson and Skinner provided rather neatly and was the overriding paradigm of academic training and research when I first entered the field in 1976. Psychology without heart or soul. Hmmm...

Here is the website and the books he wrote are worth exploring.


Thanks for the information on the heart and it's 'consciousness'. One shudders to think what other body parts might be conscious. We could have a new legal defense system..."Don't blame me m'lord... it was my hand what did it...:-)

Excuse me: I failed in to mention in my post above that the name of the late psychologist, mystic and writer was Wilson Van Dusen.

The time-frequency uncertainty principle inherently limits science and reveals consciousness as an infinite process of energy creation.

Henry Stapp's research on the Quantum Zeno Effect demonstrates this well enough -- time-frequency uncertainty is not just a statistical limitation of the conversion from infinite potential to actual probable measurement.

On an experiential level the problem with consciousness is that the left-brain thinking process covers it up. Listening to the source of sound or the source of thoughts - music with time rhythm synchronization will then activate the right brain and the vagus nerve connection to the lower body.

The Western mind is completely out of touch due to left brain dominance while ionization of the vagus nerve through collagen piezoelectric ultrasound -- diaphragm reverse breathing and bone pressure from trance dancing or tai-chi, yoga, meditation, etc. -- this is the way to contact consciousness.

So quantum physics has rediscovered what had been common practice before the Greek Miracle of Western science based on incommensurability and the containment of infinite distance through geometric length. Listening is not a left-brain "point" of dualistic thinking. Nondualism is not a static realm of a closed set of information - consciousness is an open process that never starts nor ends.

So sonoluminescence and sonofusion in science -- and quantum gravity from Renate Loll with the past and future in a superposition with the present -- these science phenomenona interact with the quantum relativity realm of consciousness (that which can not be unified by science).

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